i>Clicker: Classroom integration

Lucas Thayer
News Editor 

Almost everyone who graduates from Whitworth will at some point need an i>Clicker, a wireless device about the size of a candy bar, which allows students to take quizzes and surveys wirelessly and anonymously. The i>Clicker, ($52 retail for the newest “i>Clicker 2” model) is required for the Core 350 class, which means owning one is a de-facto requirement for nearly all students. The price tag and the simple design leave some students wondering if their money could be better spent.

Sophomore Holli Steinmetz, an English major, had to purchase an i>Clicker device for a Jan Term science class, “Physics of Weapons.” She doesn’t expect that she’ll use it again, but she’s letting her roommate borrow it in the meantime.

“I didn’t use it very often,” Steinmetz said. “I feel like it was kind of expensive for such a measly little device.”

A student can buy or rent one from the bookstore, which sells only the latest i>Clicker 2 version, but older models can be purchased online for nearly half the cost. And, unless student is a psychology, physics or biology major, the odds are good that Steinmetz will end up selling it back to the bookstore, to an online retailer or to another student.

Kamesh Sankaran, professor of physics and Core 350 teaching team leader, said that the devices are required in Core 350 because the team needed a way to conduct quizzes quickly. Before the i>Clicker, Core 350 quizzes were conducted using Blackboard software, with disastrous results, Sankaran said. Rampant cheating and unreliable software led the team to consider alternatives.

He and the other members of the Core 350 teaching team worked with Information Services in choosing the i>Clicker system, favoring it for its reliability, its quick response time and its anonymity — something that the team thought especially important for Core 350.

The i>Clicker gave a way for everyone in the class to voice their opinion, not just the most vocal students, Sankaran said.

“Because the whole class is on ethics and policy, and how your worldview influences that, these are personal opinions on contentious matters,” Sankaran said.

In terms of cost, the resale value of the device helps students to mitigate the cost of the device, Sankaran said. Besides, the reading material for the Core 350 course is slightly more than $5 to cover the cost of printing, and the reading material for the course is provided for free online, he said.

A multitude of alternatives to the i>Clicker system are available online, such as QOMO, Califone and Meridian ARS to name a few. Information Services briefly considered polleverywhere.com, an audience response system in which any audience member can respond with a cellphone.

However, due to i>Clicker’s integration into the Blackboard system, it’s unlikely that the i>Clicker will be made redundant any time soon.

“As for phasing out the i>Clicker, I don’t see that happening right now,” said Jesse Heinecke, technical support specialist for instructional resources.

Professor of Biology Craig Tsuchida is able to see the device as both a teaching tool and a school expense. Tsuchida’s son, a senior at the University of Washington, needs three different devices for his coursework as a civil engineering major. The cumulative cost  for the devices is well over $100, Tsuchida said.

“Compared to what we used to do with quizzes, I think the i>Clicker is a good system,” Tsuchida said. “If it allows me to do something different in class, I’m usually for it.”

Tsuchida said that as the father of a college student, he is more sensitive to how the costs of textbooks and school supplies affects students. That’s part of the reason he said he no longer requires the device for freshman seminar.

“It’s hard to ask students to pay [money] when I’ll ask them to use it maybe five times,” Tsuchida said.

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